Florida Panthers team captain Aleksander Barkov has been given the green light to hit the ice in tonight’s potentially series-clinching Game 4 of the Eastern Conference Final against the Carolina Hurricanes, head coach Paul Maurice said today. Barkov’s status update comes after he missed most of Florida’s 1-0 Game 3 win, sustaining a lower-body injury on a first-period hit from Hurricanes forward Jack Drury.
NHL Announces Jim Gregory Award Finalists
The NHL has announced this year’s finalists for the Jim Gregory Award, otherwise known as the General Manager of the Year award. Jim Nill of the Dallas Stars, Don Sweeney of the Boston Bruins, and Bill Zito of the Florida Panthers are the three candidates to take home the 2023 award.
Unlike most other awards, voting is not solely conducted among members of the media. All NHL GMs, as well as a spattering of league executives, are included in the process, and voting is conducted after the second round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
Under Nill’s management, the Stars recorded their highest regular-season point total since 2015-16 and have advanced to the Western Conference Final for the second time in four years, although their stay there appears to be nearing an unceremonious end. Undoubtedly, Nill’s key move last offseason was bringing in head coach Peter DeBoer, who has now brought his NHL-record fourth franchise to the third round of the playoffs in his first year with the team.
Nill also made a number of impactful free-agent signings, including left wing Mason Marchment and defenseman Colin Miller. He also locked in short-term extensions for core pieces Jake Oettinger and Jason Robertson and acquired Evgenii Dadonov, Max Domi, and Nils Lundkvist via trade.
His recent drafting has also been crucial to the team’s success, namely 2021 first-round pick Wyatt Johnston, who became the youngest player in NHL history to score a series-clinching goal in a Game 7.
Sweeney oversaw an absolutely record-breaking season for his team. Already with the 2019 edition of the award in his pocket, Sweeney’s moves contributed heavily to Boston’s league-dominating 65-12-5 record, setting an NHL all-time high with 135 points.
Under the leadership of head coach Jim Montgomery, whom Sweeney hired in the offseason, Boston never once slipped out of the Atlantic Division lead, becoming only the fourth team in the post-expansion era to accomplish this feat. The Bruins set multiple records, including a remarkable 14-game home winning streak from the beginning of the campaign.
Sweeney bolstered his roster by re-signing center Patrice Bergeron, bringing back former center David Krejčí from overseas, and making strategic trades to acquire center Pavel Zacha, right wing Garnet Hathaway, and defenseman Dmitry Orlov. The signing of David Pastrnak to a long-term extension further solidified the team’s future.
Sweeney’s moves this season didn’t come without some justified controversy, however. Back in November, Sweeney opted to sign free agent defense prospect Mitchell Miller, whose draft rights were given up by the Arizona Coyotes after a 2016 assault conviction for bullying and abusing a Black, developmentally disabled classmate became public. Miller was sent away from the team within days of the signing.
Lastly, there’s Zito, who has the Panthers on the verge of their second Stanley Cup Final appearance in franchise history. Zito started a pivotal 2022 offseason by securing the services of head coach Paul Maurice, a move that’s panned out well despite some public hesitance at the time. Zito then orchestrated a blockbuster trade to acquire and extend left wing Matthew Tkachuk, who has consistently been the team’s best player and emerged as a Hart Trophy finalist this season.
Other significant offseason moves, including signings of Nick Cousins, Alex Lyon, Eric Staal, Marc Staal, and Colin White, have mostly all contributed at points during Florida’s storybook playoff run. Zito, a finalist for the second time in his three years as a general manager, is hoping to secure his first win after finishing third in voting during his inaugural season at the helm of the Panthers.
Aleksander Barkov Leaves Game 3, Not Expected Out Long-Term
May 23, 9:25 am: This morning, head coach Paul Maurice offered more clarity on the situation, saying the Panthers were hopeful for his return during the contest, and the team remains optimistic their captain will make a swift recovery and be back in the lineup soon, with the injury not expected to be long-term, as he told Miami radio station WQAM.
May 22, 8:58 pm: Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman is reporting that Florida Panthers captain Aleksander Barkov left in the first period of game 3 in the Eastern Conference Finals and is questionable to return. Barkov took an innocent looking hit from Jack Drury and missed the final 7:04 of the first period. David Pagnotta of the NHL Network tweeted that Barkov is battling a lower-body injury, and it is still unclear if he will return.
The Panthers captain didn’t come out for the start of the second period, and little is known about his status at this time. Should the former second-overall pick miss any time, it could be a huge blow to the Cinderella story that is the Panthers’ playoff run. Barkov had three points in the first two games of their series against the Carolina Hurricanes, including a goal that Wayne Gretzky called one of the greatest moves he’s seen in the Stanley Cup playoffs. Barkov’s regular season numbers dipped a bit this year, but the 27-year-old center still had 23 goals and 55 assists in 68 games and has 12 points in 14 playoff games thus far.
The timing of the Barkov injury is interesting, given that head coach Paul Maurice mentioned to reporters this morning that the two of the Panthers’ best games this season occurred when Barkov and Sam Bennett were out of the team’s lineup. The Sportsnet broadcast crew brought up this Maurice quote from an interview that now seems ominous given the situation Barkov and Florida are now facing.
List Of NHL Prospects Attending 2023 Memorial Cup
After the OHL’s Peterborough Petes and the QMJHL’s Québec Remparts took home their respective league championships yesterday, the field for the 2023 Memorial Cup is set. They’ll be joined by two WHL teams – the league champion Seattle Thunderbirds and the host team Kamloops Blazers – on their quest to capture the pinnacle of North American junior hockey.
Pitting best against best at the U21 level from across the continent, the tournament also gives NHL-drafted prospects an early taste of high-pressure hockey on a larger stage than regular junior play. If you’re looking to see your favorite team’s prospects have big performances at this tournament, which runs from May 26 to June 4, we’re providing a comprehensive list of NHL-affiliated prospects attending the tournament.
There will be a new champion this year after last year’s winner, the QMJHL’s Saint John Sea Dogs, lost to the Gatineau Olympiques in five games in their first-round series in the QMJHL playoffs. Chicago and Dallas lead the way with three representatives at the tournament, while nine teams (Boston, Colorado, Detroit, Edmonton, Los Angeles, Ottawa, Pittsburgh, San Jose, and Tampa Bay) don’t have any prospects playing this year.
C Nathan Gaucher (Québec, 2022 22nd overall)
LD Olen Zellweger (Kamloops, 2021 34th overall)
RW Dylan Guenther (Seattle, 2021 9th overall)
LD Jérémy Langlois (Québec, 2022 94th overall)
RD Vsevolod Komarov (Québec, 2022 134th overall)
LW Lucas Ciona (Seattle, 2021 173rd overall)
C Justin Robidas (Québec, 2021 147th overall)
LD Kevin Korchinski (Seattle, 2022 7th overall)
LD Nolan Allan (Seattle, 2021 32nd overall)
C Colton Dach (Seattle, 2021 62nd overall)
Columbus Blue Jackets
LW James Malatesta (Québec, 2021 133rd overall)
C Logan Stankoven (Kamloops, 2021 47th overall)
RD Gavin White (Peterborough, 2022 115th overall)
RW Matthew Seminoff (Kamloops, 2022 179th overall)
Detroit Red Wings
LD Evan Nause (Québec, 2021 56th overall)
Los Angeles Kings
C Caedan Bankier (Kamloops, 2021 86th overall)
RD Kyle Masters (Kamloops, 2021 118th overall)
C Owen Beck (Peterborough, 2022 33rd overall)
C Jared Davidson (Seattle, 2022 130th overall)
LW Reid Schaefer (Seattle, 2022 32nd overall)
RD Luke Prokop (Seattle, 2020 73rd overall)
New Jersey Devils
RW Chase Stillman (Peterborough, 2021 29th overall)
New York Islanders
LW Daylan Kuefler (Kamloops, 2022 174th overall)
New York Rangers
LW Brennan Othmann (Peterborough, 2021 16th overall)
LD Brian Zanetti (Peterborough, 2021 110th overall)
C Jon-Randall Avon (Peterborough, undrafted)
San Jose Sharks
C Tucker Robertson (Peterborough, 2022 123rd overall)
St. Louis Blues
C Zachary Bolduc (Québec, 2021 17th overall)
Tampa Bay Lightning
Toronto Maple Leafs
C Fraser Minten (Kamloops, 2022 38th overall)
C Connor Lockhart (Peterborough, 2021 178th overall)
Vegas Golden Knights
C Jordan Gustafson (Seattle, 2022 79th overall)
RW Jakub Demek (Kamloops, 2021 128th overall)
C Ryan Hofer (Kamloops, 2022 181st overall)
C Brad Lambert (Seattle, 2022 30th overall)
Ryan Lomberg Returns For Game 1
Tom Gulitti of NHL.com reports the Florida Panthers have some added depth to their lineup as they begin the Eastern Conference Final. Ryan Lomberg has not played since Game 4 of the Panthers opening-round series.
The 28-year-old winger missed the final three games of that series against the Boston Bruins, and the entire second round against the Toronto Maple Leafs. Lomberg was ruled out with an upper-body injury and listed as week-to-week at the time. He had received a nasty cross-check to the head area in the last game he played, but no official injury status was given.
Lomberg is not likely to carry the offense for the Panthers in this series, but he brings a nasty, physical edge that is a requirement for successful playoff teams. The Panthers are a scrappy team that is difficult to play against with the likes of Matthew Tkachuk, Sam Bennett andRadko Gudas on the team, and Lomberg adds to that while bringing some speed to the bottom of the lineup.
While not a huge scorer, Lomberg did have 12 goals and 20 points in 82 regular season games, proving he is capable of finding the back of the net. He was taking line rushes on a trio with Eric Staal andColin White which would give the Panthers a reliable fourth line that just might add a couple of big goals in a series.
The Panthers are in the Eastern Conference Final for the first time since 1996 and will take on the Carolina Hurricanes after knocking out heavily-favoured division foes in the Bruins and Maple Leafs.
Ryan Lomberg On Fourth Line At Practice, Could Play Game One
- Panthers winger Ryan Lomberg was a full participant at practice today, notes George Richards of Florida Hockey Now (Twitter link). The 28-year-old suffered an upper-body injury partway through the first round against Boston and missed the entire second round versus Toronto. Head coach Paul Maurice indicated after practice today that his full team is available for the series opener tomorrow in Carolina so it appears that Lomberg will be back after missing the last eight games.
PHR Playoff Primer: Carolina Hurricanes vs. Florida Panthers
With the 2023 Stanley Cup Playoffs now underway, PHR makes its first foray into playoff series analysis with our 2023 Playoff Primers. Where does each team stand in their series, and what storylines could dominate on and off the ice? We begin our Conference Finals coverage with the Eastern Conference matchup between the Carolina Hurricanes and the Florida Panthers.
The Southeast Division reigns supreme, just as we all thought.
After more than 25 years, these former divisional rivals will square up in their first-ever playoff matchup against each other, with higher stakes than anyone expected. Both teams are knocking on the door of their first Stanley Cup Final appearance in decades after building up to this moment for years.
Both teams have also overcome some long odds to get here but under different circumstances. Some had written off the Hurricanes entering their Second Round series against the New Jersey Devils, with injuries to three of their best scorers hampering their chances against a Devils team that had overcome a 2-0 series deficit against Igor Shesterkin and the New York Rangers.
Needless to say, it didn’t matter. The Hurricanes advanced thanks to a Game 5 overtime winner from Jesper Fast, a testament to the depth that’s stepped up and gotten them this far.
The Panthers, on the other hand, finished 17th in the NHL during the regular season and rattled off seven-game and five-game series wins against two of the best teams in the league. It’s thanks largely in part to netminder Sergei Bobrovsky, who’s overcome playoff demons past and is, out of nowhere, earning his keep as a $10MM goalie.
Can Florida’s Cinderella run continue and get them back to the Stanley Cup Final for the second time in franchise history?
Regular Season Performance
Carolina: 52-21-9, 113 points, +53 goal differential
Florida: 42-32-8, 92 points, +17 goal differential
November 9, 2022: Carolina 0, Florida 3
December 30, 2022: Florida 0, Carolina 4
April 13, 2023: Carolina 6, Florida 4
Carolina takes season series 2-1-0
The question for Carolina is simple: can their depth, namely Fast, Jordan Martinook, and Stefan Noesen, keep showing up?
Their job should be made easier, as Teuvo Teräväinen is expected to return to the team after missing most of the playoffs with a broken hand. But Martinook’s 10 points in 11 games and Fast’s eight points in 11 games are near the team lead and ahead of other expected leading scorers like Martin Necas.
That’ll be their ticket to the Stanley Cup Final against a Florida team loaded with more consistently potent names, like Matthew Tkachuk, Aleksander Barkov, and Carter Verhaeghe, in their top six. It’ll also be tough to contend with the fact that Florida’s three leading goal-scorers among forwards in the playoffs (Verhaeghe, Tkachuk, Sam Reinhart) are spread out on three different lines.
Both teams are set in the crease. Both Frederik Andersen and Antti Raanta have played very well for Carolina, but Andersen’s pulled ahead with a 5-0 record and .931 save percentage after Raanta exited the lineup due to illness. Bobrovsky may have surpassed Tkachuk in Panthers Conn Smythe candidates after his performance against the Toronto Maple Leafs, limiting the Toronto attack to two goals in each game.
There are plenty of personnel storylines to go around in this series as well. Not only will it feature all three active Staal brothers in the NHL, but it also features a showdown between Carolina’s Cup-winning captain Rod Brind’Amour and former teammate Eric Staal, who now attempts to upset his former coach and help boost Florida into the Final.
Carolina is the more experienced and better-coached team in this series. They’ve overcome multiple question marks after another triple-digit point total in the regular season to get where they are now.
They’ve had plenty of tough lessons to learn from past mistakes, but so have the Panthers after a handful of recent early eliminations. They’re also both even in most matchup categories and boast similarly aggressive styles of play.
It makes this series one of the hardest to predict of the entire postseason. Both teams have knocked off 110+ point opponents with relative ease. Where Carolina pulls away is behind the bench, however, and it could be the deciding factor in what should be a lengthy series.
Prediction: Hurricanes win in seven games.
Egor Korshkov Traded In Russia
- 2016 second-round pick Egor Korshkov has been dealt in the KHL, heading to Amur Khabarovsk after three seasons with Lokomotiv Yaroslavl. The former Toronto Maple Leafs prospect never panned out, only playing one full season in the AHL, but he did score one goal in his only NHL appearance in the 2019-20 season. His player rights have since been traded to the Carolina Hurricanes and, later, the Florida Panthers, where he remains on their reserve list should he ever choose to return to the NHL. Now 26, Korshkov had just four goals in 40 KHL games last season.
Panthers RFA Logan Hutsko Signs In Sweden
After a pair of seasons in the minors, Panthers prospect Logan Hutsko has opted for a change of scenery. The forward has signed a two-year contract with IK Oskarshamn of the SHL, per a team release.
The 24-year-old was a third-round pick by Florida back in 2018 (89th overall) but only has a couple of years of pro experience under his belt since he played a full four years at Boston College. Hutsko had a good first season in the minors last year with 38 points in 71 games but injuries limited him to just 43 appearances in 2022-23 where he was fairly productive with 27 points. That makes his decision to leave a little surprising but the fact that he wasn’t among Florida’s ‘Black Ace’ promotions earlier this month probably didn’t help things.
Florida can still control Hutsko through 2026 and with this deal running through the end of the 2024-25 campaign, it seems likely that they will still tender him a qualifying offer this summer to retain his rights. In the meantime, they’ll hope that Hutsko can take another step in his development in Sweden and then assess if he’s worth bringing back in a couple of years.
Ryan Lomberg Doubtful To Return Next Round
Another day of morning skates for the Toronto Maple Leafs brings more updates on their duo of injured players, who are both ruled out for Game 5 against the Florida Panthers tonight but making progress in their recoveries. This morning, The Hockey News’ Mike Stephens relayed that netminder Ilya Samsonov was skating on his own this morning, practicing in isolation with Toronto’s skills coaches.
- Rookie forward Matthew Knies is also practicing for the first time today since his concussion in Game 2 of the Florida series, says The Athletic’s Jonas Siegel. Knies was injured on a play behind the net, forced to the ice by Panthers forward Sam Bennett. While he won’t play tonight, Knies’ status is day-to-day and he hasn’t been ruled out for a potential Game 6 on Sunday.